Namibia: Tackling GBV, Teen Pregnancies in Namibia... the Role of Policymakers Towards Women Empowerment

4 August 2020

Economic, social and political empowerment are important tools in fighting gender-based violence and achieving gender equality in Namibia. The role of policymakers was the main objective of the exchange platform organised on 24 July by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in partnership with REGAIN TRUST. Members of parliament, representatives from civil society, government and academics participated in the second event of a series of discussion on women's empowerment and reduction of gender-based violence.

Economic strength is desirable to increase women's earnings and bargaining power, raise household incomes, reduce poverty and promote more gender equality within and beyond the household. According to Patrick Schneider, deputy representative from Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Namibia, studies in sub-Saharan and other countries proof, that economic empowerment alone does not automatically lead to empowerment in social life.

Instead, these studies show that men are more likely to feel threatened and use their physical power to maintain the status quo in families, which can lead to an increase in gender-based violence. Approaches need to address as well the social and gender norms that underlie and perpetuate behaviours such as violence, especially in contexts where women don't have the freedom to dissolve their marriages and leave their partners. Economic empowerment, therefore, must go hand in hand with social and stronger political empowerment.

James Itana, executive director from REGAIN TRUST, mentioned that patriarchy and norms influence women participation in society.

Patriarchy fuelled by toxic masculinity does increase women's vulnerability to GBV at all levels. Sexual violence especially sexual harassment can be used as a tool to reinforce patriarchy. The insufficient allocation of resources from the national budget can widen the gap between the legal framework and the implementation of the national plan of action on GBV. Policymakers are advised to advocate for gender-responsive budgeting to address gender-related concerns.

Dennia Gayle, a representative from the United Nations Population Fund, confirmed that the Sustainable Development Goals contain fundamental promises for women and girls and policymakers and the entire community should ensure that transformation is achieved. According to research done in other countries, female representation in government does not directly translate into the empowerment of women.

She, thus, urged policymakers to use evidence data to deliver on the promises and combat violence against women and girls. According to her, there is a need for policymakers to have the political courage to deconstruct social norms that perpetuate gender-based violence and inequality within the Namibian society.

Rakkel Andreas, a research associate from Institute for Public Policy Research, mentioned that there is a need for policymakers to sensitise the Namibia Public on the role of different committees in parliament and also how parliament works for the Namibian public to understand the perception of gender inequality especially the silence of female parliamentarians on gender-related concerns.

According to her, gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation structures should be in place to ensure cohesion of gender-related programs and policies. Female decision-makers especially women are best suited to advocate for gender-based violence challenges, mental health and psychological support.

A gender specialist confirmed that gender-responsive budgets have emerged as an important and widespread strategy for scrutinising government budgets for their contribution to gender equality. Gender-responsive budgeting is helpful in holding governments accountable for gender equality commitments and investments, and ensuring that gender equality is explicitly included in government priorities and matched by adequate resources to address inequalities. Gender-responsive budgeting works best when there are political will and leadership by both governments, development partners and vibrant civil society.

A number of male and female parliamentarians attended the exchange platform and showed their strong commitment towards fighting gender-based violence and achieving gender equality during a one-hour discussion. Furthermore, the participants exchanged their views on the role of traditional leaders and the necessity of strong cooperation between the different ministries on this important topic. The event created a room for exchange between political decision-makers, development partners, experts from civil society and interested citizens. Once the committees in parliament are formed, the topic will be on the political agenda.

The exchange platform will continue with the topic of 'Violence and Harassment in the World of Work in Namibia' via web-seminar. Date and time to be announced.

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